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An Open Letter to the White House, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State

On behalf of the educational and scientific societies listed below, representing STEM professionals in all fields, both in the US and internationally, we respectfully request that plans announced by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 6, 2020, to modify the exemption to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) be withdrawn immediately.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WHITE HOUSE, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND DEPARTMENT OF STATE
 
July 8, 2020
 
On behalf of the educational and scientific societies listed below, representing STEM professionals in all fields, both in the US and internationally, we respectfully request that plans announced by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 6, 2020, to modify the exemption to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) be withdrawn immediately. The proposed modifications would prohibit non-immigrant students from remaining in the United States if all classes are online as a result of COVID-19. Implementation of the ICE SEVP modifications could severely impact the nearly 1.6 million students currently in the US under SEVP by causing vast numbers of students to potentially be deported.
 
Coupled with recent Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations, we are gravely concerned that this latest proposed ICE action will not only cost the US the current cohort of future innovators now enrolled in US schools, but could permanently destroy one of America's main competitive advantages: our ability to attract the world's best and brightest to study here, work here, and ultimately create America's industries and jobs of the future. Particularly in this time of almost unprecedented economic challenges, deporting students is an experiment the nation simply cannot afford to conduct.
 
In late 2018, Forbes Magazine published the dramatic research findings of a study by the non- partisan National Foundation for American Policy1:
 
America's ability to attract international students fosters entrepreneurship. About 23% (21 of 91) of the billion-dollar startup companies had a founder who first came to America as an international student...The research finds that among these privately held billion-dollar startup companies, immigrant founders have created an average of more than 1,200 jobs per company.
 
Leadership in global scientific and technological research requires the talents, skills, and ideas of STEM professionals from different backgrounds and cultures, and with different experiences and perspectives. Indeed, the US became the world leader in many areas of science and technology during the last century in part because of the diversity of individuals who contributed to those disciplines. Such diversity continues to drive the US economy today and will assure our global competitiveness tomorrow.

International students comprise a majority of doctoral candidates in many STEM fields. Not only do these students contribute to America's research enterprise but, given their prevalence in graduate programs, international students are critical to supporting efforts to nurture and develop the talents of thousands of American students.

In order for the US to continue to be a STEM leader, however, we must maintain a robust visa program open to all nations. We call upon ICE to reconsider the unintended impact of crippling this program and, with it, the high-powered, education-driven engine of America's unparalleled innovation economy.

America's economy and prosperity have been and remain inextricably tied to our hospitality and diversity. Now, more than ever, is the time to honor, embrace, and extend that legacy by assuring that all those now studying here may continue to do so under the SEVP for both their benefit and our nation's.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research American Anthropological Association
American Association for Anatomy American Association for Cancer Research American Association for Dental Research
American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy American Association of Geographers
American Association of Immunologists American Association of Physicists in Medicine American Association of Physics Teachers American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society American Dairy Science Association
American Educational Research Association American Geophysical Union
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics American Mathematical Society
American Meteorological Society American Oil Chemists' Society American Physical Society American Physiological Society American Psychiatric Association American Psychological Association
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Gravitational and Space Research American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Microbiology American Society for Nutrition
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society of Agronomy American Society of Animal Science American Society of Civil Engineers American Society of Human Genetics
American Society of Landscape Architects American Society of Plant Biologists
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene American Statistical Association
American Thoracic Society AnitaB.org
Association for Psychological Science
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Association for Symbolic Logic
Association for Women in Mathematics Association for Women in Science
Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators Association of Population Centers
Association of Science and Technology Centers Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences Biomedical Engineering Society Biophysical Society
Clark Atlanta University Coalition for the Life Sciences Computing Research Association
Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Council of Scientific Society Presidents Council on Undergraduate Research Crop Science Society of America Ecological Society of America Education Development Center Endocrine Society
Entomological Society of America Federation of American Scientists
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Genetics Society of America
Geological Society of America Institute of Food Technologists Institute of Mathematical Statistics Institute of Transportation Engineers
International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine International Society for Stem Cell Research
Linguistic Society of America
Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc. Materials Research Society
Mathematical Association of America National Council of Teachers of Mathematics North American Vascular Biology Organization
Out in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, Inc. Population Association of America
Research!America
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Society for Neuroscience
Society for the Study of Reproduction Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Society of Toxicology
Society of Vacuum Coaters Soil Science Society of America
SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics STEM Education Coalition
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society The Optical Society
TODOS Mathematics for All

1 https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-BILLION-DOLLAR-STARTUPS.NFAP-Policy-Brief.2018-1.pdf
 
Updated July 13, 2020